Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rev3 Epic Adventure Race

April 21-22, 2012
Racers: Britt Mason, Ernie Lawas, Dave Ashley and Greg Voelkel

The Rev3/Mountain Khakis Adventure Racing team sent multiple teams to compete in the Rev3 Epic.  Our team consisted of four experienced racers who had never raced together, but included Britt, one of the fastest female racers out there; Ernie, fast, skilled and with tons of experience; Dave, an outstanding navigator, and Greg, a strong climber on both foot and bike.  Together we hoped to compete with the likes of Team SOG, the defending USARA National Champions, and all of the other major East Coast teams, ImOnPoint, Goals ARA, and Team Halfwaythere to name a few. 
We rallied at check in Friday night, received our maps and started plotting and planning our route.  While the first few sections were fairly straightforward, we spent much of the evening discussing strategies to clear the optional checkpoints after what we guessed would be a late evening departure from TA1.  The optional checkpoints could be done in any order, on bike or on foot and some were worth 2 points.  We also knew that some sections of trail were not made for mountain bikes and getting stuck on one of those late in the race could nullify any great work we had done up to that point. 

The race began with a mass “epic” start on the Shenandoah River.  We stayed close to the front and paddled hard to the first CP.  We stayed with the lead pack on the mile run up a hill for CP A then re-entered the canoes to head downriver toward the next optional CP B.  This CP was marked near the river and described as a cliffside campground.  We figured since it was optional, it must be tough to get.  As we approached the area where we expected the CP, there was a steep 100’ cliff. The team in front of us portaged and started scrambling up the cliff.  We soon followed on the treacherous scramble.  Rocks flew down the gully as more as more teams followed.  After 30 minutes of running around the woods and private property at the top of the cliff, teams started to give up.  We headed back down where Dave and Britt waded upriver to get the canoes as Ernie and Greg tried one more area by the water.  Teams were all spread out at this point and no one knew if anyone had found CP B.  As we rounded the next bend in our canoes, CP B was right there in plain sight on the side of the river.  30 minutes lost but oh well, clearing the course was still possible. Next came the Class 2 rapids which put some water in the canoes but didn’t slow us down.  At CP 2 we used the trash bags that had failed to keep our Camelbacks dry to fill the water buckets of the first special challenge.  A long paddle followed to the Transition Area.  We kept a fast pace, passing other teams that had bypassed the cliffs earlier.  At the TA, we learned that all of the top teams had gotten delayed at CP B and we were currently the first place Coed team!  We followed a string up and over benches and through barrels to complete the 2nd special challenge and were soon on our way out into Shenandoah River State Park for some great mountain biking.  Other coed teams were already in transition as we headed out.

The trails in the park were a blast.  Besides a few tough climbs, they were fast and rolling.  We hit all three mandatory CPs and the three optional CPs, covering about 10 miles.  Dave’s route worked perfect with a couple of short bushwhacks to save time.  Soon we were back at TA1, swapping bike shoes for running shoes for an 8+ mile trek. Heading back out into the park, we were still in 1st place.  We picked up a CP on a trail bridge and another on an island on our way out to the furthest point for this section.  That point was at the end of a steep trail near a parking lot where we were met with gunfire; yes, I said gunfire.  Greg hit the deck and yelled at the rednecks to stop shooting while the rest of the team wondered if Greg was yelling because he had been shot.  The rednecks held their fire long enough for Greg to punch the CP and get the heck out of there.  Again, Dave’s route through the park was flawless as we picked up the other three CPs, used the same bushwhack from the bike section and headed back to TA1.  Back at the TA, we learned that Team SOG and ImOnPoint had arrived a few minutes before us.
The sun was getting low on the horizon, the rain had just started to fall, and the top three teams were all in transition.  We were at our cars for the last time and loading our packs for the next 18 hours.  The warm up was over; it was time to adventure race.
The next section was a 1500’ climb on the bikes to the top of Massanutten Mountain and through Veach Gap.  After a brutal “hike a bike” for the last section, we hit the top of the ridge.  We flew down the wet, rocky trail to the cabin where we planned to trek up a hill for CP I.  A few other bikes were already there, but we followed a good bearing right to the CP.  Our initial plan for the next CP was to run the trail, but in the first 400 meters, we determined it was ridable and ran back to get our bikes.  The trail wasn’t as nice as the first 400 meters but we rode and pushed our bikes up the trail.  Another team followed and pushed slightly ahead, they completely bypassed the CP as we punched and headed back down to Veach Gap as night fell in the valley.
We weaved through the valley roads on our bikes and started the next big climb through Mine Gap and up towards TA2.  With over three hours until the TA2 cutoff, we bypassed transition to get more optional CPs on the bike while our legs still had some twitch left.  We figured the 18 mile trek afterwards would give us some time to “rest.” The next 1200’ decent and subsequent climb was tough, but we picked up two CPs, one worth 2pts, and headed to TA2 to check in and get our O-Course passport.  After three 1000’+ climbs on the bike we needed all the food we could get to prevent bonking, but amazingly, we were all still going strong.  Britt passed around some tasty Power Bar Energy Blast chews which kept us going throughout the night and Dave tried to get us to challenge our stomachs with some bacon.
Our first stop was to enjoy the view at the top of Woodstock Tower, unfortunately it was dark.  We then began the long slog down the main ATV trail, minus ATVs.  The pace counts were brutal and prevented us from talking, but Britt stayed occupied looking for salamanders along the trail.  Eventually, we figured out that the signs along the trail were km markers which helped considerably with the pace counts.  We finally found the “white” trail behind a bulldozed section off the trail and started to hit some CPs.  The mountain top points were exciting breaks from the long slog down the ATV trails.  At one mountain top CP, three teams stood at the bottom of some cliffs, trying to find an easy way up.  Greg scaled up the cliff and punched the CP while the other teams watched and we were quickly off to the next point.  Dave and Ernie did a great job keeping us on track and we rolled through Edinburg Gap to an optional CP and back up to the ATV trail.  The long trek was becoming a blur at this point in the night as we followed Dave’s Lupine light beam down the trail. The rest of us needed to power down our lights to save batteries.  We moved at a speed walking pace up the ATV trail with only a couple more CPs left to get on the way back but at least 8 or 9 miles to go.  After about 10 minutes of confusion at the blue trail and creek intersection, a brain cell kicked in to remind us of the pre-race brief that O-Course CP5 had been removed.  Oh well, if it had still been there, we would have gotten that one too.  We pressed on as the km markers slowly passed, picked up the last CP of the O-Course and stumbled back in to TA2. 
At this point, with the course lay out, there was no way to tell where we stood in the race.  We figured we could be third but really had no idea.  We still had 5 optional CPs to punch and in 6 hours we would have to be finished or risk losing a CP for every minute we arrived past noon.  The good news was that the sun was starting to rise, but the bad news was starting to pile up.  First, we were really low on water and dehydration was setting in.  Second, as we grabbed our bikes to roll out of the TA, Greg realized that the hiss he thought he heard eight hours earlier was not a hallucination.  His front tire was flat.  Ernie did an amazing job changing the flat in what seemed like about three minutes. Now we were off.  We took a left at the first ‘Y’ intersection, but it was the wrong road.  More time lost as well as wasted effort.  Still low on water, we were starting to get a little frustrated.  We eventually found the trail to go up the hill to CP K.  It was much longer and steeper than we would have liked, but we got it and pressed on.  Luckily CP O was at a “Mudhole” where we were able to fill our water bottles and camelbacks.  A short wait for purification, and we started to rehydrate just in time for the climb to Signal Knob. 
The ride to Signal Knob included some technical riding on the trail around a lake and on the approach up the mountain which turned into “hike a bike” and finally “drop a bike and hike.”  From the top of Signal Knob, our decision from the discussions the night before looked clear. Although it was shorter to get to the last two CPs via the Massanutten and Meneka Peak trails, it was not something you wanted to mtn bike.  With only 3 hours left until race cutoff time, we stayed on our known path back to CP O and then the purple trail towards CP M.  The first part was technical with four creek crossings and made us nervous as the minutes ticked away.  Finally, we hit gravel road and rode rolling hills until a steep descent to the CP.  The ride took longer than we expected and there were less than 2 hours until the cutoff. The last CP was another long climb up a potentially unridable trail and then a trek to a mountain top.  It was an easy, unanimous decision to skip it and head home. 
By this point, we were done with nutrition; it was time get home and let adrenaline keep us going until we got there.  A climb back to the Mudhole, down through Mine Gap, across the valley and back to Veach Gap.  The last climb took forever as we rode and then pushed our bikes up through the rocks.  The rain poured on us and the cold temperatures finally started to break down our body temps.  Not that it mattered, we were almost there.  Summiting the ridge, we all breathed easier.  Just don’t fall and your way home. The rocks were wet and the brakes squealed but we cruised down the trail towards the finish line.  It was amazing how strong all of us had been throughout the entire 26 hours.  As we rolled across low water bridge with 27 minutes to spare, we soon learned we were the last team to cross the finish line, but the team with the most checkpoints!  1st place Co-ed and 1st place Overall! It’s great win for Rev3/MK against some of the toughest competition in the country. 
Congrats to everyone on the team for their efforts as well as the other Rev3/MK teams for their strong finishes and a great showing for the entire Rev3/MK team.
Thanks to Mike and Mark, their families, and all the volunteers for putting on a very professional race with a great course.

Post-race, we all huddled up with blankets and a space heater and held off hypothermia.  It’s amazing how your body can shut down when it knows it is done.  Ernie was taking a nap in his car, but we picked up his Rev3 Epic Conqueror glass and our 1st place winnings at the awards before taking hot showers and putting on our Mountain Khaki pants for the trip home.

1 comment:

  1. Well done. Thanks for sharing your strategy - thinking like you guys should help us snag an extra CP or two next time. Congrats!
    -Team Delirium